“You forget everything,” Or Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Occasionally, I like to switch things up a bit, and review a current book rather than one I read back then. Today is one of those days with Gabrielle Zevin’s Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.

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Naomi is a sixteen year old Junior. She has a boyfriend, Ace, and a best friend, Will. She and Will are on the school’s yearbook committee together. In fact, they are co-editors of the yearbook and they spend a ridiculous amount of time on the yearbook committee. One evening right before the school year begins, Naomi and Will realize they’d left the school’s new camera in the yearbook room, and flip a coin to see who has to go back to get it. If she’d picked heads, this story wouldn’t have happened. But Naomi picked tails, so she had to go. As she was coming back down the school steps, she tripped and fell, striking her head. A bit of head trauma gave Naomi a nice case of amnesia.

In her case, she lost all memories from the previous four years. These years include, meeting both Ace and Will, her parents’ divorce, her mother’s remarriage, a birth of a half-sister, and her father meeting and getting engaged to another woman.

Naomi’s not sure what kind of girl she is. She goes to school and discovers she’s welcome at the cool kids table (without Will), and she gets the feeling that she’s only accepted by the popular kids because she’s Ace’s girlfriend. Ace, meanwhile, tries too hard to jog her memory by asking “remember when,” questions, and Will tries to help by providing mix CDs.

Also in the picture is James, the only witness to Naomi’s fall and the boy who accompanied her in the ambulance. James is a mystery – a new, very good looking, but very moody kid.

Naomi with no memory can’t connect with Ace, so she breaks up with him. She’s falling for James, who is a kid with a past he’d rather forget, making him a good match for Naomi who has a past she can’t remember. It turns out James’ moodiness is far more than moodiness, or being “exquisitely depressed,” as Will sarcastically says. He’s a very troubled, very seriously depressed boy dealing not very well with the death of his older brother. When Naomi regains her memory, she’s shocked to remember that the day prior to her accident, she and Will had shared a kiss. But it’s too late, she’s with James and her friendship with Will has been on the fritz because of it.

But Naomi with her memory realizes she and James aren’t made for each other, and his problems are too big for her. He realizes (before she does) that’s how it is, and he has himself committed to a mental hospital.  Meanwhile, she and Ace strike up a begrudging friendship based on being on the tennis team together, but she and Will are barely speaking. Eventually, she works things out with Will, and the story ends with the possibility of a blooming love on the horizon.

  • Despite the fact that I don’t care for young love books, I didn’t mind this. But I think the subject of amnesia in this book could have been better used to explore Naomi’s friendships and her strained relationship with her mother. Both things were touched on, but the crux of the book was Naomi’s love life.
  • Ace and James are both very fleshed out characters (eventually), but Will remains a little bit of a one-dimensional, mix-CD making, sarcastic quipping, manic pixie dream boy, if there is such a thing.
  • Despite having three boys as potential suitors, Naomi doesn’t seem like the type of girl to be boy-crazy. She even mentions at one point not wanting to be the type of girl who has to have a boyfriend.
  • This book takes place in Tarrytown, NY. Which most people know as the home of Sleepy Hollow, but what I know as the setting of Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. 
  • Naomi’s dad is the best.
  • Here’s why. Toward the very end of the book, he and Naomi are having a moment. And he takes a moment to talk to Naomi a little about growing up and the things that happen as teenagers. And I love this quote, because it’s something is wish I had read as a teenager. I wish someone had taken the time with me to assure me about the temporariness of being a teenager. It would have saved me so much strife. Anyway, the quote:

“You forget all if it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned – the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times….And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations – even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go…..”

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About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Gabrielle Zevin. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “You forget everything,” Or Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

  1. Akilah says:

    I read this a long time ago, and I remember being really dissatisfied and super annoyed that it was about stupid boys instead of all the interesting things Naomi had going on with her family. Pah.

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